Experts explain link between murderers and mental illness - WTVM.com-Columbus, GA News Weather & Sports

Experts explain link between murderers and mental illness

COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) -

"Something wasn't right," and, "they seemed troubled," are re-occurring statements from friends and family when someone's mental illness comes to light, but often only after that person commit a heinous crime.

The mental health of John "Rusty" Houser, the man accused of opening fire in a Louisiana movie theater, was once again a big talker this week as Russell County officials discuss local gun laws.

Psychologists in the valley explain how dismissing someone with labels like "crazy" instead of encouraging them to seek treatment could possibly have deadly effects later on.

Family members addressed Thomas Lee in a Troup County court this week. Lee is the man who pleaded guilty to killing five people, four of which were his own family members.

Despite also pleading mentally ill, Lee was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

"Our investigation revealed some prior mental history," said Peter Skandalakis, District Attorney. 

The national frenzy of addressing mental illness hit close to home again when Houser opened fire in a Louisiana movie theater.

"We know who's going through a divorce, we know who's in a bad time, who may be drinking too much who may be abusive but hasn't necessarily crossed the line of a crime," said Russell County Sheriff Heath Taylor when discussing local gun laws.

It's an echoing theme after another group or mass murder makes headlines is prevention.

Local therapists explain that there is hope for those suffering with overwhelming thoughts. They say seeking treatment for yourself or loved one could save lives.

Despite a common misconception, they say depression isn't the usual illness that prompts people to hurt others.

"Depression often ends up with suicide rather than homicide," said Martha Dodson, a clinical social worker at the Pastoral Institute.

Dodson also says other disorders that create obsessive thoughts, feelings of loneliness, and isolation are usually the ones to blame, "Sociopathic personalities, people with bi-polar disorder manic, sometimes schizophrenics."

"Certain things can bring about symptoms, major life changes, loss, difficulty adjusting to changes even if you know that they're coming," said Rachel Snipes, counselor at The Family Center.

Health experts encourage family and friends to tackle these signs head-on, instead of taking someone's behavior personally or throwing on the label "crazy."

Health experts also say they are seeing copy-cat behavior by people with mental illnesses, which they argue is one of the reasons our country's had more public shootings recently.

Psychologists say one way you can encourage a loved one to seek help is by going to a therapist yourself, and inviting them along.

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